THE Vatican has distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the focal point in the gay marriage debate in the US, saying she was just one of dozens of people the Pope greeted and their encounter “should not be considered a form of support of her position”.
A statement has been issued clarifying the circumstances of Francis’ 24 September encounter with Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences.
Vatican spokesman the Revd Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York.
The Revd Lombardi said such meetings are par for the course of any Vatican trip and are due to the Pope’s “kindness and availability”. He said the Pope really had just one “audience” in Washington: with former students and his family members.
“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” he added.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, spent five days in jail for defying a series of federal court orders to issue same-sex marriage licences after the Supreme Court legalised gay marriage across the country.
A judge ultimately freed Davis on condition she not interfere with her deputies issuing the licences. When Davis returned to work, she confiscated the marriage licences and replaced them with new ones, saying they were issued not under the authority of the county clerk, but “pursuant to federal court order”.
Davis said earlier this week that she and her husband met briefly with the Pope at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington and that he encouraged her to “stay strong”. “Just knowing that the Pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything,” she told ABC News.
The Vatican statement insisted that the Pope intended no such validation. News of the audience sent shockwaves through the US church, with Davis’ supporters saying it showed the Pope backed her cause and opponents questioning whether the Pope had been duped into meeting with her.
Yesterday, the Revd Lombardi met the Pope and issued a fuller statement to “contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired”. Initially the Vatican only reluctantly confirmed the meeting but offered no comment.